Any other early Saturday morning 12-year-old Chloe Harper would have been tucked in her bed, fast asleep.
This wasn’t any other Saturday morning, as a line of strong storms ripped through the region and left heavy widespread damage throughout Baldwyn just before 7 a.m. on Jan. 11. Part of that damage was a massive tree that fell on the Harper home on Cox Street, square into the room where Chloe would have been.
The storms that blew through the area left a trail of tree and property damage across the city, with the hardest hit areas appearing to be the Cox Street, Brickyard Street, North 2nd Street and Latimer Park areas. West Baldwyn was also hit hard as Simmer Down restaurant lost about half its roof and Will’s Used Cars not only lost portions of the roof on two buildings and had damage to inventory, but the wind was so strong it even bowed out walls on the main building. And multiple homes along Community Road suffered major damage as well.
Massive trees were blown down throughout the city, and crews with Maxx South, the City of Baldwyn and Prentiss County Electric were busy trying to get things cleared. The roof of a building used for storage at Baldwyn Middle School was blown off and the cafeteria roof was damaged. Trees were blown down on Thomas Street, blocking access there. Out at Latimer Park more homes were damaged by trees and limbs.
Heavy rainfall in the hours after the storm hampered recovery efforts slightly but crews worked steadily trying to clear trees and limbs despite the rain and street flooding that was also occurring. A huge tree was uprooted on North 4thStreet near Cash Express, taking down major telephone and Internet lines with it. It happened in the front yard of the home of Dianne McGee, who was home with her family when the storm hit. The tree came down parallel to the road, but had it gone down westward it would have fallen through McGee’s home.
“I got them up and we went to the bathroom and got in the tub,” McGee said. “It was scary. We’re just lucky. If (the tree) had come this way (motioning toward her house), my babies would have been right here on this couch (beside the front door). That tree’s probably been there 100 years. God was watching over us.”
McGee said they had about three minutes warning before the storm hit. A big tree also hit their shed out back and a large piece of metal that looked like the door to a piece of equipment found its way to McGee’s house, where it came within inches of coming through her bedroom window. She had no idea where it came from or what it even was, but it was heavy enough that it took two men to lift it and move it away from her home.
Over Brickyard Street, Carrington and Brian Sample were at his parents’ home when the storm hit. They made it to their neighbor’s storm shelter, but for a time that didn’t even seem safe.
“WTVA said that at 6:54 it would be hitting us,” Carrington said. “We went ahead around 6:40 to the storm shelter. The wind sounded really bad. By the time we got back there (to the storm shelter behind their home) it was already hitting; it came earlier than we expected.”
“We had been in the storm house for maybe 10 minutes and my mom’s sister, niece and nephew got in maybe two or three minutes before it hit,” Brian said.
“Tricia was still standing up and that’s when both of the trees fell and hit the roof of the storm shelter, and it cracked,” Carrington said. “We felt the whole ground shake and heard the roof of the shelter cracking. We were all screaming. I had my four-month-old in her car seat. We were hovering over her. It was very scary.”
A major blessing
Anna Clemons was in shock as she, her boyfriend and her son were gathering items from their home on Cox Street after a massive tree fell into the home, crushing the room where her daughter, Chloe, would have been sleeping. Due to basketball games getting cancelled Chloe and her cousin went to stay with Clemons’ mother for the night, and her son went to stay at his father’s house. Clemons stayed at her boyfriend’s home, meaning the only ones home were the family dog and Chloe’s guinea pig. That was a huge blessing as Chloe’s bed was pinned underneath rafters, the ceiling fan, heavy limbs and the tree trunk.
Chloe’s great-grandfather, Rep. Jerry Turner, was at the home with Clemons and others in the aftermath of the storm as the family salvaged items to take with them. The family dog was safe, but they had not been able to determine the fate of the guinea pig. Still, as Turner stood in Clemons’ living room with a gaping hole overhead, he couldn’t help but marvel in the fact that no one was hurt or killed – not in Clemons home or anywhere else in the city.
“As much damage as we have, we are very fortunate we don’t have any fatalities or major injuries,” Turner said. “We have to give credit to the weather people at Channel 9. They kept us well informed. You just can’t overestimate the value they are to us. We’re just blessed above measure.”